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Addressing the Needs of System Involved Students

posted on October 19, 2017 by Grace Spulak, Director of FosterEd: New Mexico

Sen Kernan and the SB 213/HB 301 advocacy team from NCYL and NMCAN

“Our vision is for each and every young person involved in the state’s system to be positively engaged in school and learning, empowered to take charge of their educational futures and have meaningful relationships with caring adults.”

 

 

(Pictured above: Sen Kernan and the SB 213/HB 301 advocacy team from NCYL and NMCAN.)

The State has a unique moral and legal responsibility to ensure the well-being of children in its care. Yet educational outcomes of children in the care of our child welfare and probation agencies are significantly worse than other at-risk students. FosterEd: New Mexico is working with NMCAN, State Senator Gay Kernan and Representatives Doreen Gallegos and Gail Chasey on legislation that begins to address this crisis.

SB 213 (Kernan)/HB 301 (Gallegos & Chasey) ensures that homeless students, foster students and other system-involved students have a smooth transition between schools with full access to programs and services that are available to all other students. These critical services include equal access to extracurricular activities including sports, career and technical or other special programs and to assistance and timely advice from counselors to improve college readiness.

The State has a unique moral and legal responsibility to ensure the well-being of children in its care.

Homeless students and system-involved students frequently change schools for reasons that are beyond their control. These youth, who face traumatic changes in their home lives, are repeatedly asked to adapt to new teachers, new classrooms, and new peers. High school mobility has negative effects on academic achievement and is associated with dropping out. This disruption often results in a loss of school credits, a
delay in
earning
a high
school
diploma and too often a failure to graduate. Studies show high school students who change schools even once are less than 50 percent as likely to graduate as those who don’t change schools.

The Federal Government has begun to address these issues with provisions that promote school stability in The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The proposed legislation builds on these federal advances by ensuring student records follow students in a timely manner. In recognition of differing graduation requirements among districts, the bill requires districts to grant diplomas to eligible students as long as they meet or exceed the state requirements for graduation. This protects students who would otherwise have to meet a set of additional local graduation requirements further delaying graduation in some cases by years.

On Wednesday February 8th SB 213 was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee. In the meantime, a second bill authored by Rep. Gallegos establishing a point of contact in each school district for these system-involved youth is awaiting introduction. A district point of contact will ensure that someone in the school district is available to facilitate a smooth transition when these students change schools.

It is our hope that this approach will ultimately become a statewide practice, supported by a strong policy framework, so that these most vulnerable youth have the future they deserve.

FosterEd, is an initiative of the National Center for Youth Law. Our vision is for each and every young person involved in the state’s system to be positively engaged in school and learning, empowered to take charge of their educational futures and have meaningful relationships with caring adults who will consistently and effectively support the young person’s educational trajectory once they have exited care.

FosterEd: New Mexico has established a demonstration project in Lea County that ensures every foster child and youth under probation jurisdiction has an education success plan, education decision maker, and education team. To do this, we work across three spheres concurrently: working directly with students to implement promising practices; forging and bolstering partnerships at a local system level to establish infrastructure for cross-sector engagement, and working at a state and regional policy level to address large scale systemic barriers.

It is our hope that this approach will ultimately become a statewide practice, supported by a strong policy framework, so that these most vulnerable youth have the future they deserve.

For more information contact: gspulak@youthlaw.org

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